“Daddy, what is that you are doing at work?”
By Igor Ivanov
… my 3 y/o, Robin, asked me one day.
Me: Daddy is, uhm… daddy is building algorithms on his computer…
Me: Ehm… daddy takes cameras and makes them smart…
Me: Nevermind, son, daddy is going to work to make money, and then buy you presents.
Robin: I want a big green garbage truck!
The struggle is real.
My son wasn’t the first one that made me stutter — it has been like this for many years already.
I’m in a desperate chase behind a simple, easily understood definition for “Algorithm Engineer”.
A definition that I can proudly present to my son, my wife, my parents, and my friends.
So, if you are an Algorithm Engineer, Data Scientist or working on blowing magic spirit into machines — you can help me put an end to this struggle.
If you are here to read about geeks making fun of themselves — you came to the right place.
To get an idea of why it is so tough to define this profession, I will try to explain to you what comes into the minds of some of the people when they hear the term “Algorithm Engineer”.
I believe many of the readers will relate.
Please bring a glass of your preferred alcoholic beverage and a good mood before proceeding.
What is the first place we always check for answers? Of course, it’s my wife, sorry, it’s Wikipedia.
So here it goes:
Ok, thanks a lot Wikipedia, very helpful.
My mom is an old-school doctor, raised with the Soviet Union mentality. Having a son who is not a successful doctor is nothing less than a disaster. Of course, she’s got used to it already.
My mom, when hearing that both of her sons are Computer Vision and Image Processing engineers, is thinking about something like this:
Sorry, mom, I hope one of your grand-children will become a successful doctor one day.
My dad is an Electrical Engineer, an old school one too.
One of the few that are left, that can actually build working machines with his bare hands, out of metal, plastic, and air.
He was happy to know his sons are Electrical Engineers too. He was disappointed when he understood that we are “not the right kind of Electrical Engineers”.
My dad, when hearing about Image Processing and Computer Vision, is imagining something like this:
Dad: “Do they really pay you for this?”.
For my beloved wife, anything that does not involve spending time with the family is a waste of life.
When I spend hours in the office or the lab making some new features work, she is absolutely sure that this is what’s going on there:
In this specific case she was right, but only in this one.
Explaining Algorithm Engineering to my friends with or without a technological background was never easy.
It always comes to:
“So you’re doing software…”
I must admit, this is what I’m usually saying for several years already, when meeting new friends, to avoid long and awkward discussions that come up to the same conclusion…
This time it will be easy.
A typical HR, when hearing about Algorithm Engineering, is thinking about people that have the terms “algorithm”, “machine learning” and “python” on their Resume. That’s it. Pretty simple.
Don’t need to be offended, if you are from Human Resources and reading this post — you are already not a typical HR, and have a great sense of humor too.
People seeking Algorithm Engineering/Data Science/Computer Vision positions
I believe this is what comes into their minds:
Well, the grass is always greener on the other side.
In the last few years, the hype is too high for those positions.
Reaching an awkward point where some use Deep Neural Nets on ridiculously simple applications, just for the sake of being cool.
I really appreciate those engineers that find a simple and practical trick to solve a complex problem, rather than “stacking layers” to impress their friends.
Although, I can totally understand the rush watching GAN loss finally converge… oh God yes!
My boss genuinely believes we are blowing magic spirit into machines:
Sometimes the magic spirit is SVM.
I will keep this for later posts, we’ve only started.
Now let’s be serious for a minute.
Some say it was Albert Einstein that has taught us one simple truth:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Other kids in my son’s kindergarten have doctor dads, firefighter dads, pilot dads, policeman dads, and other cool dads.
I want my kid to have a cool dad too.
Please help… help me explain my 3 y/o what is daddy doing, for God’s sake.
Robin, my dear son, if you are reading this as a grown-up…
Daddy loves you! I hope the world is a much better place now.